The 10 Worst States To Start a Career Post-graduation

As the summer vacation comes to an end, some graduates are worried about where they may be able to find a job post-graduation. Many of these students are deciding where they’d like to start their careers.

According to a study from, a student resource website, West Virginia ranks as the worst state to start a career post-graduation.

BestColleges ranked all 50 states on the nine metrics – average rent price, cost of living, average entry-level salary, number of job openings, racial/ethnic diversity, percentage of young people between the ages of 25 and 34 years old, women’s equality, educational attainment, and level of fun (entertainment, recreation, and attractions).

While West Virginia ranked the worst, New York, California, and Illinois ranked the best places to start a career post-graduation.

Based on the findings, here are the ten worst states to start your career:

  1. West Virginia
  2. Maine
  3. Montana
  4. Vermont
  5. New Hampshire
  6. Alaska
  7. Kentucky
  8. Wyoming
  9. South Dakota
  10. Idaho

BestColleges conducted this survey during the pandemic, so these findings are very recent, but maybe somewhat skewed.

Ranking the Results

To complete this study, they used publicly available data about young adults entering the workforce. They were ranked as follows: average rent price (15%), cost of living (15%), average entry-level salary (15%), number of job postings (15%), racial/ethnic diversity (10%), percentage of young people between the ages of 25 and 34 years old (10%), women’s equality (10%), educational attainment (5%), and level of fun (5%).

West Virginia, known as the 38th most populous and 41st most expensive of the 50 states of the United States, is located in the Appalachian region in the Southern United States.

It's known as the Moutain State or the Panhandle State.

While the unemployment rate there is back to normal, the economy is far from recovered for everyone, according to the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy, and the numbers are worst for minorities.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused challenges for West Virginia workers, from unsafe working conditions to unprecedented job issues. Unfortunately, the job market and employment gains have not improved much compared to the pre-pandemic levels.

At the beginning of the pandemic, those living in West Virginia lost 101,000 jobs as total non-farm employment dropped from 718,700 in February 2020 to 617,700 in April 2020.

While the state has seen some steady growth, those recovering still see a substantial job gap.

While West Virginia has a low cost of living, the jobs don’t pay much either, so don’t expect to make big paychecks post-graduation.

According to Glassdoor, the average entry-level salary is only $25,296.

Maine ranked the second worst, likely because of their high cost of living. They also have high average rent prices while having limited job opportunities. This makes it less than ideal state for post-graduates in the beginning stages of employment.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis Personal Expenditures cited the average cost of living in Maine at $45,272 per year, in 2020. That's approximately $3775 per month.

The breakdown for these costs is as follows according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis Personal Expenditures (BEA):

Category Average Annual Per-Capita Cost in Maine
Housing and Utilities $8,537
Health Care $7,851
Food and Beverages (non-restaurant) $4,338
Gas and Energy Goods $1,132
All Other Personal Expenditures $23,413

Average housing costs in Maine are roughly $673 to $1,398 per month. While Maine lacks a decent salary and high health care price, they also lack diversity, with less than 10% of people of color.

BestColleges also says that according to data from ZipRecruiter in 2022, Maine’s average salary was $30,746; this is a lot lower than pre-pandemic. This lack of a decent salary brings their hourly wage to about $14.78.

The data collected about racial/ethnic diversity, the percentage of young people, and educational attainment were all obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In addition, educational attainment data looked at adults over the age of 25 with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Data from March 2022 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was based on the number of job openings by state, according to BestColleges.

Georgetown Institute’s 2020 U.S. Women, Peace, and Security Index was used to determine women’s equality and data. Among the list, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas were the top worst states to be a woman.

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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.